Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898) continues to fascinate the world with her personality, politics, and fashion. But where should you go in Vienna to best experience “Sisi” and follow in her regal footsteps?
- Many locations are within walking distance of each other
- If you only have time for one place, then visit the Sisi Museum in the Hofburg
- See also:
Build your own Sisi tour
Empress Elisabeth counts as one of the great historical personalities associated with Vienna. To understand why, read this quick overview of her biography and cultural importance.
Here some suggestions for your personal Sisi tour, complete with photos, links to more information, local travel tips, and a map…
The Hofburg in the very centre of Vienna is your No.1 priority for a Sisi-themed visit to Vienna. Elisabeth and her husband, Franz Joseph, lived in this huge complex, which formed the main Habsburg residence in town.
The Sisi museum
(Sisi Museum, Michaelerkuppel, entrance; © Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H., Severin Wurnig)
The self-guided Hofburg ticket covers three major Elisabeth-related attractions:
- The Sisi Museum: learn about Sisi’s life, loves, travels, and troubles. The exhibits include numerous personal items from the Empress’s possessions, as well as replicas of gowns and jewellery
- The Kaiserappartements: explore the very apartments Elisabeth called home. These offer many clues to her style and personality, such as the choice of photos on the walls (bad news if your name is Franz Joseph)
- The Silberkammer: view various household items used by the Empress or associated with her, such as the “dolphin” crockery service from Sisi’s villa in Corfu
(Schönbrunn Palace, Toilette room of Empress Elisabeth © Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. – Alexander Eugen Koller)
Another chance to see a set of rooms lived in by Sisi, this time in the Habsburg “country” palace that the city swallowed up long ago. The chambers include her study, dressing room and salon, as well as the royal couple’s bedroom and dining room.
Ostensibly a showcase for the many royal carriages and vehicles, this museum among the Schönbrunn Palace outbuildings has a treat for Sisi fans: the Empress Elisabeth exhibition.
The exhibition features a series of videos accompanied by relevant display items, including the empress’s wedding train and the very carriage that bore her into Vienna for the first time in 1854.
The Hofburg and Schönbrunn allow you to explore Elisabeth’s life and story in considerable detail. To immerse yourself further in Sisi’s legacy…
Vienna Furniture Museum
The Möbelmuseum Wien (Vienna Furniture Museum) does what it says on the label. The museum has a huge potpourri of fittings and furnishings from times gone past, including many used by Sisi.
The displays include other items, too, such as a fascinating series of lithographs of the Empress, a set of scales (well used), a fan, and much more.
A small film tour features the museum exhibits used in the (romantic but inaccurate) Sisi movie trilogy from the 1950s starring Romy Schneider as the empress rounds off the Elisabeth theme.
The vast majority of Habsburg monarchs find their last resting place in the Kapuzinergruft (Imperial Crypt).
Sisi has no great ostentatious mausoleum in the style of the likes of Empress Maria Theresa. Instead, you’ll see Franz Joseph and Elisabeth alongside their son, Crown Prince Rudolph, in a simple chamber. Expect to find fresh flowers laid nearby.
Elisabeth married Franz Joseph at the Augustinerkirche on April 24th, 1854, soon after her arrival in Vienna. The church served the court for almost three centuries and traces its origins back to the early 14th century.
Sisi and Franz Joseph are not the only famous couple associated with the Augustinerkirche. In 1810, for example, Archduchess Marie Louise married Napoleon here, albeit by proxy (the French emperor did not turn up in person!).
(Press photo: Lisa Rastl © Wien Museum)
Franz Joseph spared no effort in trying to keep his wife happy, never working out that it really wasn’t in his power to do so.
One such effort was to build the Hermesvilla for Elisabeth, a large summerhouse out in the Lainzer Tiergarten woodland park at the edge of Vienna. He hoped its idyllic location might persuade her to spend more time in the city.
Interestingly, some of the inside decor in Elisabeth’s rooms stemmed from the hands of a young Gustav Klimt, before he turned his artistic eye to more modernist pleasures.
The park is quite a way away from the centre (and the villa quite a way from the park entrance), so probably only worth a visit for diehard Sisi fans.
Virtual reality tours
For a little more infotainment, Sisi makes appearances in some popular virtual reality experiences in Vienna. For example:
- Sisi’s Amazing Journey: Elisabeth’s story, and the Empress herself accompanies you on a short virtual reality boat ride.
- Time Travel Vienna: fun 5D, VR and animatronic experiences covering key moments and personalities in Vienna’s long history
- Future Bus tour: Sisi pops up briefly (I think) at one of the VR stops on this fun combined bus and VR tour.
The Volksgarten memorial
The 1907 memorial to Elisabeth erected close to the Hofburg just a few years after her death remains a surprisingly well-kept secret.
Despite taking up a big chunk of the very central Volksgarten park, the statue and gardens seem a touch isolated from everything else. Much like the empress herself.
Approach it from the Heldenplatz side of the park to get a view down a narrow avenue embellished with flowers and topiary (with Sisi at the end).
Demel & Sluka
Consider these two rather fine, traditional coffee and cake shops in Vienna’s centre.
- The interior of Demel feels like the film location for a Regency period drama. These official suppliers of all things sweet to Franz Joseph’s court delivered the candied violets that Sisi so loved. And you can still buy them today from Demel’s store on Kohlmarkt.
- The Empress apparently also visited Sluka next to city hall; today’s white and gold panelled interior seems to pay tribute to the imperial guest.
The Technical Museum
Bear with me.
In among the scientific instruments and satellites of the Technical Museum is the original 1873 sleeper railway carriage used by Elisabeth for long-distance trips. You can peek through the windows to see her bed, toilet, and similar.
Finally, not a home or particular haunt of the Empress, but the permanent art exhibition at Belvedere normally includes a rather unusual portrait.
The 1883 Anton Romako painting has a darkness to it quite unlike anything you typically associate with Elisabeth. She stands stark, distant and seemingly unapproachable. You can hardly believe this is her.